The Free-response Questions
The free-response questions fall into 10 general categories or types. The multiple-choice questions fall largely into the same categories plus some straight-forward questions asking students to find limits, derivatives, and integrals. Often two or more type are combined into one question. The types are the following.
- Rate and Accumulation
- Linear motion
- Graph Analysis
- Area / Volume
- Table and Riemann sum
- Differential Equation (and slope fields)
- Others (implicit differentiation, related rates, theorems, et. al.)
- Parametric Equations (BC only)
- Polar Equations (BC only)
- Sequences and Series (BC only)
My numbering has changed over the years. This numbering follows this index where each type is referenced to free-response and multiple-choice questions of the same type.
I will discuss each type individually over the next few weeks starting today with Type 1.
AP Type Questions 1: Rate and Accumulation
These questions are often in context with a lot of words describing a situation in which some things are changing. There are usually two rates acting in opposite ways. Students are asked about the change that the rates produce over some time interval either separately or together.
The rates are often fairly complicated functions. If they are on the calculator allowed section, students should store the functions in the equation editor of their calculator and use their calculator to do any integration or differentiation that may be necessary.
The main idea is that integral of a rate of change over the time interval [a, b] is the net amount of change
If the question asks for an amount, look around for a rate to integrate.
The final (accumulated) amount is the initial amount plus the accumulated change:
where is the initial time, and is the initial amount. Since this is one of the main interpretations of the definite integral the concept may come up in a variety of situations.
What students should be able to do:
- Be ready to read and apply; often these problems contain a lot of writing which needs to be carefully read.
- Recognize that rate = derivative.
- Recognize a rate from the units given without the words “rate” or “derivative.”
- Find the change in an amount by integrating the rate. The integral of a rate of change gives the amount of change (FTC):
- Find the final amount by adding the initial amount to the amount found by integrating the rate. If is the initial time, and is the initial amount, then final accumulated amount is
- Understand the question. It is often not necessary to as much computation as it seems at first.
- Use FTC to differentiate a function defined by an integral.
- Explain the meaning of a derivative or its value in terms of the context of the problem.
- Explain the meaning of a definite integral or its value in terms of the context of the problem. The explanation should contain (1) what it represents, (2) its units, and (3) how the limits of integration apply in context.
- Store functions in their calculator recall them to do computations on their calculator.
- If the rates are given in a table, be ready to approximate an integral using a Riemann sum or by trapezoids.
- Do a max/min or increasing/decreasing analysis.
Shorter questions on this concept appear in the multiple-choice sections. As always, look over as many questions of this kind from past exams as you can find.
Tuesday March 7: Type 2 Linear Motion
Friday March 10: Type 3: Graph Analysis